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Unsure About Outdoor Play in Winter? Here's How to Embrace It

by Meghan Fitzgerald

In the very first season of Tinkergarten, the threat of playing with kids in the spring rain terrified me. How could I make this work? Would anyone come? And, if so, would they enjoy it? 

Then, the best thing that happened: It rained. Nearly everyone came. We made umbrellas from burdock leaves. We splashed. We sang about the rain and drank it in. It was memorable for all (my eldest daughter still talks about it), and I got more positive feedback from that Tinkergarten class than any of my dry ones. We had all stretched outside of our comfort zones, and it felt great.

Fast forward a few seasons, and I had the same worries about winter. “How can the cold season work in an outdoor classroom?” I know many parents wonder the same thing. Whether you’re in Buffalo or Austin, cold is cold, and winter is winter. 

But winter is just like my rainy day. Playing outside in winter is not only delightful—like all play in nature, it also makes for powerful learning


Practically speaking, as long as everyone is well dressed in warm, appropriate layers of clothing, there’s neither danger nor discomfort in being outdoors in the winter. As an elementary school principal and a mom, I’ve also seen the impact on kids of staying indoors. And, health professionals agree that time outdoors in the winter is healthy for kids, as long as they have the right gear. We know when cold is too cold to be safe, and most winter days are just fine. Plus, if we teach our kids techniques for staying warm, we arm kids and families with the knowledge and the confidence to enjoy outdoor time all year long—what a gift to regain a quarter of your potential life in nature!

There are so many fun winter games and activities for kids and toddlers that make play long-lasting, from snowman-building to excavating frozen treasure to listening walks or imaginative hikes.

As an elementary school principal and a mom, I’ve seen the impact on kids behavior and bodies when they stay indoors. And, health professionals agree that time outdoors in the winter is best for kids’ health and wellness. We know when cold is too cold for kids to be safe outside, and most winter days are just fine. 

Plus, if we teach our kids techniques for staying warm, we arm kids and families with the knowledge and the confidence to enjoy outdoor time all year long. Kids will also develop resilience and grit—and the gift of regaining a quarter of their potential lives in nature!

Beyond that, winter is full of magic. Whether you are cracking ice puddles in St. Louis or celebrating the arrival of migrating birds and miracle berries in Miami, your winter is full of amazing sights, smells and sensations that are not to be missed.

GEAR RECOMMENDATIONS

Need recommendations for which winter gear will help your family love winter play outside? Check out our Winter Gear Guide. Or, join & ask in our #OutdoorsAll4 Facebook Group — a perfect place to connect with thousands of caregivers, educators, and Tinkergarten Leaders all working to build purposeful outdoor play into their routine!

PLAY IDEAS

Once you're geared up, we wish you the best of adventures outdoors this winter! And, we’ve got all of the play ideas you need to keep kids active, joyful and learning outside. Make sure you’re signed up for our mailing list to receive weekly play breaks—5 minute ideas that will lead to hours of purposeful play outdoors this winter. Or, check out our Tinkergarten classes with a curriculum, designed to fill your weeks with outdoor play and build kids’ Problem Solving skills this winter.

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